Are Vans Good for Hiking?

When it comes to footwear for outdoor activities, Vans may not be the first brand that comes to mind. Known for their iconic skate shoes and laid-back style, Vans’ versatility often extends beyond the confines of the skatepark. But the question remains: are Vans good for hiking? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the features, benefits, and potential drawbacks of using Vans as hiking shoes, so you can make an informed decision about whether they’re the right choice for your next outdoor adventure.

The Origins of Vans

Vans, originally known as the Van Doren Rubber Company, was founded in 1966 in Anaheim, California. The brand’s early focus was on producing high-quality, vulcanized rubber sole shoes, which became popular among the burgeoning skate and surf culture of the West Coast. Over the years, Vans has evolved, expanding its product line to include a wide range of casual, athletic, and outdoor-inspired footwear.

While Vans may not be the first brand that comes to mind for hiking, the company has made concerted efforts to cater to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts. Let’s take a closer look at how Vans’ shoes may (or may not) measure up for hiking.

Vans’ Features and Construction

Vans’ shoes are known for their simple, minimalist design and durable construction. However, the brand has also introduced more specialized models that incorporate features tailored for specific activities, including hiking. Some key features to consider when evaluating Vans for hiking include:

Sole Traction and Grip

One of the most critical factors for hiking footwear is the sole’s traction and grip. Vans’ traditional vulcanized rubber soles provide decent grip on dry, smooth surfaces, but may struggle on more technical or slippery terrain. To address this, Vans has introduced models with more aggressive, lug-patterned outsoles that are better suited for hiking and outdoor use.

Cushioning and Support

Hiking can be demanding on the feet, so adequate cushioning and support are essential. Vans’ standard shoes often have relatively thin midsoles, which may not provide enough shock absorption and arch support for extended hikes. However, the brand has expanded its lineup to include models with more robust, cushioned midsoles and reinforced arches to cater to the needs of hikers.

Durability and Water Resistance

The rigors of hiking, such as traversing rocky trails or encountering wet conditions, can quickly wear down and compromise the integrity of footwear. Vans’ canvas and suede uppers are generally more susceptible to damage compared to traditional hiking boots or shoes made from water-resistant materials like leather or synthetic fabrics.

Ankle Support

Proper ankle support is crucial for preventing sprains and providing stability on uneven terrain. Vans’ classic low-top silhouette may not offer as much ankle support as taller, more structured hiking boots or shoes.


Keeping your feet cool and dry is essential for comfort and preventing blisters during a hike. Vans’ canvas and perforated uppers tend to be more breathable than some traditional hiking shoes, but may not provide the same level of moisture-wicking performance.

The Pros of Wearing Vans for Hiking

Despite the potential drawbacks, there are several reasons why Vans may be a suitable choice for certain hiking needs:

Versatility and Style

Vans are known for their versatile, casual style, which can be an advantage for hikers who want a pair of shoes that can transition seamlessly from the trail to everyday wear. This can be particularly appealing for those who prefer a more relaxed, laid-back aesthetic while pursuing outdoor activities.

Lightweight and Flexible

Vans’ shoes are generally lighter and more flexible than traditional hiking boots, which can be beneficial for activities that don’t require as much ankle support or heavy-duty protection. This can make them a comfortable choice for short, well-maintained trails or casual hikes.


Compared to specialized hiking footwear, Vans tend to be more affordable, making them a budget-friendly option for those just getting into hiking or those who don’t require the most technical features.

Familiarity and Comfort

For individuals who are already fans of the Vans brand and have found their shoes to be comfortable for everyday wear, using Vans for hiking can be a natural extension of their preferred footwear.

The Cons of Wearing Vans for Hiking

While Vans may work for some hiking situations, there are also several potential drawbacks to consider:

Lack of Rugged Features

Vans’ shoes are primarily designed for casual, urban wear and not the demands of technical hiking. Features like robust toe protection, aggressive outsole lugs, and reinforced uppers that are standard on dedicated hiking footwear are often lacking in Vans’ models.

Limited Cushioning and Support

The thin midsoles and relatively flat footbeds in Vans’ shoes may not provide enough cushioning and arch support for extended hikes, particularly on uneven or rocky terrain. This can lead to fatigue, pain, and potential injuries over time.

Susceptibility to Damage

Vans’ canvas and suede uppers are more prone to damage from abrasion, moisture, and wear-and-tear compared to hiking shoes made with more durable, water-resistant materials. This can compromise the longevity and performance of the shoes in rugged hiking environments.

Lack of Ankle Support

The low-top silhouette of most Vans models offers limited ankle support, which can be a concern for hikers traversing uneven ground or dealing with ankle instability. This lack of support increases the risk of sprains and other ankle-related injuries.

Identifying the Best Vans for Hiking

If you’ve decided to use Vans for your hiking needs, it’s important to consider the specific features and characteristics that will best suit your hiking style and terrain. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Terrain and Hiking Intensity

For lighter, well-maintained trails or casual day hikes, a standard Vans model with decent traction and flexibility may suffice. However, for more demanding hikes on rugged, technical terrain, you’ll want to look for Vans’ models with more robust outsoles, increased cushioning, and reinforced uppers.

Foot and Ankle Support

If you have concerns about your foot or ankle stability, or if you anticipate needing more support during your hikes, consider Vans’ models that incorporate features like reinforced arches, padded ankle collars, and more substantial midsoles.

Breathability and Water Resistance

For hikes in warm, dry conditions, the breathability of Vans’ canvas or perforated uppers can be an advantage. But for wet weather or crossing streams, you may want to opt for a Vans model with water-resistant materials or a more protective design.

Similar FAQs

Q: Are Vans good for long hikes?

A: Vans may not be the best choice for long, strenuous hikes due to their lack of robust hiking-specific features. The thin midsoles, relatively flat footbeds, and susceptibility of the uppers to wear and tear can make Vans less suitable for extended periods on the trail.

While they may work for shorter, easier hikes, hikers who plan to cover significant distances or tackle challenging terrain would likely be better served by dedicated hiking shoes or boots that offer more cushioning, support, and durability.

Q: Can you hike in Vans?

A: Yes, it is possible to hike in Vans, but the suitability will depend on the specific hiking conditions and your personal preferences. Vans’ shoes can be a viable option for light, well-maintained trails or casual day hikes, as they provide a decent level of traction, flexibility, and comfort.

However, for more demanding hikes, particularly on rugged, technical terrain, Vans may not offer the necessary support, protection, and durability that dedicated hiking footwear provides. It’s essential to carefully consider the hiking conditions, your personal needs, and the features of the Vans model you’re considering to determine if they are suitable for your hiking activities.

Q: Are Vans good for hiking in the rain?

A: Vans’ standard canvas and suede uppers are generally not the best choice for hiking in wet or rainy conditions. These materials can become soaked and heavy, and they offer limited water resistance compared to hiking shoes or boots made with water-repellent fabrics or leather.

If you anticipate encountering wet weather or terrain during your hikes, you may want to opt for a Vans model with more water-resistant materials, such as their MTE (Mountain Edition) line, or consider dedicated hiking footwear designed to keep your feet dry and protected.

Q: Do Vans provide good ankle support for hiking?

A: The standard low-top silhouette of most Vans models does not provide as much ankle support as taller, more structured hiking boots or shoes. This lack of ankle support can be a concern for hikers traversing uneven terrain or dealing with ankle instability, as it increases the risk of sprains and other ankle-related injuries.

If you require more substantial ankle support for your hiking activities, Vans may not be the best choice. You may want to look for hiking-specific footwear with reinforced ankle collars and increased stability features to better protect your ankles on the trail.


In conclusion, while Vans can be a suitable option for some casual or light hiking situations, they may not be the optimal choice for more demanding or technical hiking activities. Vans’ focus on casual, urban-inspired design means they often lack the specialized features and construction that dedicated hiking footwear offers, such as robust traction, sufficient cushioning and support, and durable water-resistant materials.

However, for hikers who prioritize versatility, style, and a more relaxed aesthetic, Vans can still be a viable option, particularly for shorter, well-maintained trails. As with any footwear decision, it’s essential to carefully consider the specific hiking conditions, your personal needs, and the features of the Vans model you’re considering to determine if they are the right fit for your outdoor adventures.

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